The Commission for Gender Equality presented its turnaround strategy, following previous meetings at which a number of problem areas had been identified.
The six main areas of operation for the CGE were separated into “themes”, and the strategic objectives for each were outlined. A key objective was to improve the CGE’s audit rating, which involved changes in the fields of finance, human resources, governance and business processes.
Concerns were raised about the lack of detail on what action the CGE was taking to recover missing funds, and what financial controls were now in place. Members wanted to know why it had taken so long to appoint a new CEO and three Heads of Departments and were told this process would be completed by September.
Discussion on training highlighted the CGE’s problems in attracting quality staff owing to disparity in the Treasury’s grading system. Human resource management problems, such as incomplete personnel records, absence of job descriptions, performance management and job evaluations, had been addressed.
The CGE’s response to the practice of Ukuthwala was debated, with members expressing concern over the conflict between traditional customs and statutory law.
The CGE reported on improvements made in the areas of governance and business processes, including a new supply chain management policy which closed previous loopholes.
The budget for 2010/11 of R51,949 million was discussed at length, with calls for more money to be spent on core projects, and less on employee compensation.
Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) presentation
Mr Mfanozelwe Shozi, Acting Chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality, gave a brief outline of the Commission’s mandate, and described its mission as the promotion, protection, monitoring and evaluation of gender equality in South Africa. Its mandate was executed through monitoring, investigation, research, education, and lobbying, and by advising and reporting on issues concerning gender equality.
The mandate had been developed around six themes:
▪ Gender and poverty – monitoring the standards of living and quality of life of women, using access to land, water, sanitation and transport infrastructures as key points in order to promote job creation, economic opportunities and to balance dependence on social grants.
▪ Gender-based violence – working towards creating a violence-free society by significantly reducing gender-based violence through co-operation with strategic partners.
▪ Democracy and good governance – in partnership with civil society, the CGE becomes the national authority on compliance within the gender equality legislative and policy framework.
▪ Gender, culture, religion and traditional practices – evaluating the role which cultures, religion and traditions play in contributing to gender inequality, and working towards rectifying these inequalities.
▪ Gender and HIV and AIDS – reducing the vulnerability of women and girls through monitoring and making recommendations on the gendered responsive nature of existing HIV/AIDS legislation and programmes.
▪ National Gender Machinery (NGM) – providing an integrated framework and getting institutional structures established to monitor and promote gender equality in government policies and programmes at all levels.
Mr Shozi listed the strategic objectives attached to each of these themes, and added that each department needed to work with these objectives to deal with their own particular problems.
He outlined what was expected from the Research, Legal and Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) components of the CGE. They would be required to produce quality analytical reports on a monthly and quarterly basis, as well as provide plenary with comprehensive reports on programmes related to the strategic goals and objectives.
He said the National Gender Machinery was in the final phase of a case study aimed at producing a CGE report on the status of the CEDAW Protocol, and would engage Parliament on its findings and recommendations.
He said action plans for 2010/11 had been developed for all six themes. In respect of poverty, the Government’s progress in meeting Millenium Development Goals (MDG) would be monitored. Gender-based violence would be addressed through a “Red Card” campaign against human trafficking. Democracy and good governance would involve monitoring local government elections, engaging with the Empowerment Evaluation Committee (EEC) on gender transformation in the private sector, working with the media on discrimination and the portrayal of gender equality in the media, and reviewing legislation. A conference on culture, religion and tradition was planned, as well as a study on the practice of Ukuthwala. The national strategic plan on HIV and AIDS would be monitored, while reservations surrounding the CEDAW Protocol and the Beijing Platform for Action, in terms of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights of Women in Africa, would be reviewed.
Commission for Gender Equality’s turnaround strategy
Ms Keketso Mgema, Acting Chief Executive Officer: CGE, presented this. Following intervention from the Chairperson, and comments from Mr D Kekana (ANC) and Ms D Robinson (DA), it was agreed that the background to the strategy was not needed, as the situation had been fully covered previously.
Ms Mgema said Project Clean Audit was endeavouring to move the CGE from having received a disclaimer, to obtaining an unqualified audit in future, by addressing control activities, risk management, information and communication, and monitoring. This would involve focusing on three areas – finance, human resources, and governance and business process improvement.
Mr Moshabi Putu, Acting Chief Financial Officer: CGE, dealt with the strategies employed to deal with the body’s financial problems. He said there had been insufficient information on leases, and many were not filed, but now new systems were in place to prevent this recurring.
The Chairperson asked whether an asset register had been compiled.
Mr Putu replied that they had gone into the historical records, and a new register had been constructed. Problems regarding payroll, sundry trade and staff creditors, current assets, petty cash, banking, and income and expenditure, had all been handled. An audit office had been established, and the CGE was building systems to provide internal controls.
Mr Kekana said the presentation indicated that the problems had been resolved, and yet the audit disclaimer had been based on insufficient documentation being available. It was not clear what corrective action had been taken, or whether it had been possible to retrieve money that had been lost through mismanagement.
Mr Putu responded that where people were considered liable, legal action was being instituted.
Mr Kekana said he was not satisfied, as far more detail was required as far as the turnaround strategy was concerned.
Ms H Malgas (ANC) asked for an explanation of the control systems that had been introduced. She added that risk management systems were also important.
The Chairperson wanted to know how much petty cash was now actually kept in the office, as this would indicate that bad practices had been replaced with something better.
Ms Yvette Abrahams, CGE Commissioner, said that with regard to governance and risk management, the CGE had tackled the big issue in February last year by separating the executive authority from the accounting officer, and appointed a CEO who was not a Commissioner. A CFO was appointed. A major problem was that since 2007, Treasury had been asked to fund additional finance posts, but these had been turned down. As the CGE was without three Commissioners, that part of the budget had been used to fund more posts in Finance to assist the CFO. There were now sufficient posts in Finance and they were looking to place more staff in Human Resources. Litigation was also in progress to recover taxpayers’ money that was irregularly paid out by the CGE, and more litigation was likely to follow.
Mr Shozi said the CGE was in the process of appointing a permanent CEO, and the time of operating with an acting CEO would soon be over.
Ms P Duncan (DA) said the presentation was not as clear as the one presented at the previous meeting and from a financial point of view, she suggested the Committee should reconcile the current budget with the 2008/09 budget, as this would give a better indication of where the CGE was going to go with its finances.
Mr Kekana said the Committee needed to be told how much money was going to be recovered, and how this was going to be achieved.
Ms Abrahams said the CGE was currently litigating over an amount of about R350 000, but a draft forensic report indicated a further R10 million fell into the category of fruitless, wasteful, irregular or fraudulent expenditure. This had to be handed over to the legal advisers to decide what was litigable and recoverable, and this was why it was still not possible to give Parliament an exact figure.
Asked to confirm these figures, Ms Mgema said there were two issues on the table for litigation. The first was for a recoverable amount of about R300 000, while the other involved a problem contract in the region of R3,2 to R3,3 million. This excluded those issues that might emerge from the forensic report.
Ms Malgas referred to the recommendations contained on Page 15 of the Project Clean Audit report tabled by the CGE on 12 May, and said they were supposed to come back on six points that had been raised.
The Chairperson agreed that using the previous report as a reference point would have made the present report much clearer.
Mr Putu said the 12 May document on Project Clean Audit had listed several items on page 15 that needed to be corrected retrospectively and going forward. In order to avoid a disclaimer, all the problems would have to be corrected. Documentation needed to be made available, so since April all missing documents had been drawn. Most of the requirements had now been met, and he was hopeful that this year’s audit opinion would be an improvement on the previous year, and that the CGE would receive a clean audit next year. He said it was essential to build capacity through training and acquiring additional resources. A higher level of competence among staff would help avoid a conflict of interest situation, where those responsible for reviewing were also responsible for doing.
Asked who was receiving financial training, Mr Putu said he was himself conducting on-the-job training, while outside agencies were also involved in handling other aspects where specific skills were needed.
The Chairperson asked why staff not qualified for the job had been employed in the first place.
Ms Abrahams replied that in terms of Treasury’s grading system, CGE employees earned less than their counterparts in other areas, which meant that the CGE had to take what it could get.
Ms Mgema added that staff had had to be trained to handle the payroll internally. This had previously been handled by an outside agency.
The Chairperson asked what had been done specifically to deal with the cash and banking problem.
Mr Putu replied every entity was required to conduct a bank reconciliation each month, as this was the only way to confirm that no fraud had been perpetrated.
Ms Mgema returned to the presentation in respect of the human resources turnaround strategy. The main issues were lack of capacity, a shortage of people in certain positions, and poor record-keeping. There were personnel files with employment contracts missing, so all files had been inspected and updated in accordance with a checklist to ensure that each one contained all the necessary documentation. Job descriptions had been compiled, and were now in place.
The problem with the performance management system, introduced in 2006/07, was that it looked only at upper management, and did not cascade down to lower level staff. A new performance management tool had been developed, and a pilot would be started during the current quarter.
Recruitment issues were highlighted by the fact that two heads of department positions were filled by acting heads, while the Legal Department had no head at all. This meant that some people were having to do their own jobs, in addition to acting in others. These HoD posts had been advertised, but the first priority was to appoint a CEO, as this person needed to be involved in the selection process.
The job evaluation process had recently started, but had been stalled by the need to put other elements, such as job descriptions, in place. It would be completed by around August.
Proper HR policies were being developed, but this had been delayed by the fact that they were now in litigation with one of the companies involved. Several new policies, such as those covering leave and bursaries, were now in place, while other areas were still being worked on.
Ms Duncan asked when the posts of CEO and HoDs had been advertised, and when they would be processed.
Mr Shozi said the post had been advertised in January, and five candidates had been shortlisted for the CEO position. Four had already been interviewed, and he expected the new CEO, as well as the HoDs, to be appointed by September.
Mr G Selau asked if the positions of CEO and Acting Chairperson of CGE had been separated.
Ms Mgema said there used to be two Commissioners acting as CEOs. The office of the CEO had been subsumed into the office of the Chairperson. This situation had been turned around, with the positions of Acting Chairperson and Acting CEO now being separate.
Ms Abrahams replied since August 5 2009, the Acting Chairperson had also been Deputy Chairperson, reporting to Commissioners, and everything had run smoothly since then.
Ms Duncan asked who would actually appoint the CEO and HoDs.
Mr Shozi replied the CGE had established a senior recruitment committee, which reported directly to the plenary. When the interviews had been completed, the committee would present its recommendations to the plenary, who would make the appointment.
Several members expressed concern about the length of time it was taking to appoint the new CEO, and Mr Selau asked if there was any legal stipulation regarding the length of the selection process.
Mr Shozi said there was no stipulation in the CGE Act, but he would check on other legal requirements and report back. He said the appointment would be made within two months.
Ms Malgas said a revised organogram had been presented in the 2009 report, and asked if the new organogram was still the same.
Mr Shozi said it remained basically the same.
Mr Kekana asked whether CGE research could identify how many girls finished matric, as education helped women to be independent, and less liable to suffer abuse.
Ms Abrahams said a gender barometer had been launched this year, and in terms of numbers, the country was doing very well regarding equal access to education. South Africa was ranked fifth or six in the world for women’s access to primary and secondary education. At university level, more women than men enroll, but fewer women graduate. Unfortunately, equality in education was not translating into equal opportunities in the workplace, with women’s unemployment rates higher and the national female wage being only 55% of the male wage.
Several members raised questions about the practice of Ukuthwala, and the CGE’s role in monitoring it.
Ms Abrahams said the CGE was not an implementing agency, but an independent body. It was the Ministry’s job to implement ANC policy, while the CGE’s job was to ensure they executed independent policies related to gender equality. In the case of Ukuthwala, the CGE would be checking up on whether the government was doing what they were supposed to do, or whether they were collecting the right data, or implementing the provisions of the gender policy framework.
Mr Shozi said the CGE needed to investigate cultural practices which were in conflict with the Constitution, although cultural and traditional issues were very difficult to deal with.
Mr Kamraj Anirudhra, Parliamentary Officer of the CGE, explained the complex legal implications of the CGE getting involved in abuse cases involving minor children. Some would be criminal cases, involving the police, while others could be dealt with as violations of constitutional rights. He added that as far as he knew, no case involving Ukuthwala had been brought to court.
The Acting Chairperson said it was a case of the Children’s Act making Ukuthwala a crime on the one hand, and traditional law defining it as culture on the other. Commissioners had reported that they did not enjoy support in rural areas. Without a legal precedent, the matter needed to be regarded as a “work in progress.”
Mr Kekana said that he viewed it as a straightforward case. Culture had to be subjected to the requirements of the Constitution, and perpetrators should be taken to court and convicted.
Ms Robinson said community elders and males needed to be educated on the matter, and Mr Shozi said males were included in CGE educational programmes.
Ms Abrahams said only 10% of rape cases were reported, with a 2% conviction rate. It was difficult for the CGE to get involved, particularly when victims were not prepared to co-operate. Support was also needed from civil society.
Governance and Business Process Improvements
Ms Mgema said that a new supply chain management policy had been introduced in May, 2009, to close loopholes and to ensure procurement policies were adhered to. Other issues, such as budget control, compliance to Treasury regulations, month end policies, document management and capacity building within the finance department, had been addressed in earlier parts of the presentation and subsequent discussion.
Mr Selau said he understood the CGE to be saying that all the problems that had been identified previously would be overcome when the turnaround strategy was implemented, so it was not necessary to revisit the issues that had been discussed earlier. He also felt it was not necessary to debate the anticipated outcomes, with the audit moving from “qualified” in year one to “unqualified” in year two and sustained in year three, with an overall improved organizational performance.
Mr Putu said Treasury had allocated R51,949 million for 2010/11, which represented a 6% increase in line with inflation. Non-core activities therefore had to be identified to achieve savings so that funds could be released to finance core CGE programmes. He presented a full breakdown of the CGE’s estimated expenditure over the next three years. The six themed programmes would consume R27,095 million, which was more than 50% of the budget. The balance had been allocated to administrative programmes, including capital expenditure.
The bulk of the budget – R35,177 million – was for the compensation of the CGE’s 105 employees, whom he described as the “foot soldiers” tasked with service delivery, advocacy work, handling complaints and monitoring equality courts.
Ms Malgas said it appeared as if R35 million was being allocated for compensation, leaving only R16 million for core programmes.
Mr Kekana said the Committee would like to see the bulk of the total R51 million going toward core programmes, rather than items like furniture. It would make more sense if the bulk of funds ended up directly with women, children and people with disabilities.
The Chairperson said that with R35 million being required for salaries, and only R20 million for programmes, it appeared they were not getting value for money.
Mr Putu responded by saying that the R35 million represented the overall payroll, and included the R20 million required for salaries for CGE employees involved in core programmes.
The Chairperson asked the CGE to give the Committee a chance to review the budget and raise its concerns or proposals, and any corrections that needed to be done could be forwarded to them.
Mr Anirudhra said it was important to consider that the CGE was a service-oriented institution, and the budget was therefore consumed mainly by providing services, which were intangible. Costs were incurred by enlightening people, writing reports, education officers traveling to far-flung areas, communicating with communities and municipalities and empowering them. The budget was therefore to compensate skills and services, and he urged committee members to understand that the outcomes were intangible.
Ms Malgas suggested the Committee should study the budget again.
Mr Kekana said the impression that R20 million was being spent on core functions, and the rest on non-core functions, needed to be corrected.
Ms Duncan said many questions had been asked because of the limited amount of information in the presentations, and urged the CGE to provide more detail in future.
The Chairperson endorsed this comment, and closed the meeting.
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